Sacha Dhawan talks about being the Master

In the explosive cliffhanger to Spyfall – Part One, the Master revealed himself, and the Doctor and the TARDIS team were shook. With the Doctor trapped in the unknown and Graham, Ryan and Yaz in peril on a crashing jet plane, it looks like the Master has finally got the Doctor…

But what was it like to take up the mantle of one of the most evil Time Lords throughout space and time? Sacha Dhawan tells all….

Did you know what the role was for when you auditioned, did you know how big of a role it was?

"I didn’t audition - which was amazing as I’ve never been offered a part. I’d worked with Matt Strevens on An Adventure in Space and Time and he’s a great friend of mine. He had asked me to play another character in the last series of Doctor Who but I was away filming. I think in hindsight it’s the best thing that could have happened because I wouldn’t have been able to play this iconic character."

How has it been keeping the secret?

"It’s actually really difficult and I think the more you’re told not to say something, the more you want to! It’s an amazing feeling, especially being the first British Indian actor to portray the role. I’m really proud and excited for people to see it."

What was it like working with the cast and crew?

"It was amazing. And I had already worked with some of the crew on Sherlock. I love coming to Cardiff to film, because of the crew; they are incredibly generous. The character can be quite unpredictable at times, and I found the crew immensely supportive and collaborative.

The cast couldn’t be more welcoming, particularly Jodie, who has the responsibility of setting the tone on set. And it’s a huge responsibility in my opinion, especially with the amount she has to do each day. She’s a special Doctor for me, not just because I’m fortunate enough to work with her, but because she’s a true company leader, with such love and care for everyone on set. It’s something the audience don’t get to see, and it’s pretty incredible. I’ve learnt a lot from her."

How did you react when you heard it was the Master and how did you prepare?

"The first feeling I had was pure terror to be honest, and I thought: “There’s no way I can do this!” Then I eventually calmed down.

My first port of call was to extract the bare bones of the character because there is so much information out there. I was keen to approach the part like I would with any other character, which in a way, gave me confidence to make the character my own. Yes, the character is playful, unpredictable, dangerous, but I was keen to explore where that ‘persona’ originates from. That’s when I really became excited by the possibilities in terms of where I could take the character, because I started to uncover a much more darker, more melancholic side to the Master, which I felt hadn’t been explored before.

I actually sent Matt and Chris an audition tape prior to my first day on set and said “be honest”. They both seemed really excited by the tape, but at the same time, they gave me some interesting thoughts to think about and play around with.

It really opened up an interesting and exciting dialogue between Chris and I, which continued throughout the whole process. I felt I could call him at any time to share ideas, which only made the character stronger. It’s rare for an actor be able to do that; it felt very collaborative."

How do you feel knowing this is such an iconic character, and people are always going to now know you as the Master?

"There was a time when actors like myself, wouldn’t even be considered for a role of this nature. Doctor Who has always been a landmark show, but I feel it’s becoming an even more landmark show due the stories that are being written, and the actors being cast to represent them. Yes, I’m a nemesis alien time lord, but that’s only the surface. For me, the role becomes ‘iconic’ because if you look beyond that you’ll see that there’s a much deeper story that’s going on. Once I realised that, I couldn’t feel more proud to be incarnating the character."

You can see Sacha Dhawan as the new Master in action during Spyfall – Part Two, opposite Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill and Bradley Walsh.

Spyfall – Part Two is coming this Sunday 5th January at 7pm on BBC One, or on BBC America at 8pm ET, 7pm CT.

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